Tag Archives | Mummies

Russians Have Mastered the Art of Embalming the Dead

V. I. Lenin, 1920 {{PD-US}}

V. I. Lenin, 1920 {{PD-US}}

An article from BBC a few years ago outlines the art of the long-term embalming of the dead. The Russians have mastered this in an effort to keep Lenin’s body pristinely preserved. Once a day they must soak Lenin’s hands and face in a special solution and wash his entire body in the solution once a week. Am I the only one who thinks this is just a tad creepy?

via BBC:

Ilya Zbarsky, who was a member of Lenin’s embalming maintenance team at the Research Institute for Biological Structures in Moscow, told the BBC in an interview in 1999: “Twice a week, we would soak the face and the hands with a special solution. We could also improve some minor defects. Once a year the mausoleum was closed and the body was immersed in a bath with this solution.”

Such was the reputation of the Russians in the field of body preservation that Vietnam’s former leader Ho’s body was said to have been flown to experts in Moscow every year for a refresh.

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Mummy Analysis Reveals Drug Use By Sacrificed Inca Children

sacrificeFor the Incas, coca and alcohol served simultaneously as keys to the sacred and tools of coercion and control, National Geographic fascinatingly reports:

The bodies of 13-year-old Llullaillaco Maiden and her younger companions Llullaillaco Boy and Lightning Girl (three Inca mummies found near the lofty summit of Volcán Llullaillaco in Argentina) have revealed that mind-altering substances played a part in their deaths and during the year-long series of ceremonial processes that prepared them for their final hours.

Under biochemical analysis, the Maiden’s hair yielded a record of what she ate and drank during the last two years of her life. This evidence seems to support historical accounts of a few selected children taking part in a year of sacred ceremonies—marked in their hair by changes in food, coca, and alcohol consumption—that would ultimately lead to their sacrifice.

Her surging consumption of both coca and alcohol, which were then controlled substances not available for everyday use, show she appears to have been selected for sacrifice a year before her actual death: “We suspect the Maiden was one of the acllas, or chosen women, selected around the time of puberty to live away from her familiar society under the guidance of priestesses.”

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Eight Million Dog Mummies Uncovered In Egyptian Chamber

We were not the first culture to deify our pets. Ahram Online reports:

During routine excavations at the dog catacomb in Saqqara necropolis, an excavation team led by Salima Ikram, professor of Egyptology at The American University in Cairo (AUC), and an international team of researchers led by Paul Nicholson of Cardiff University have uncovered almost 8 million animal mummies at the burial site.

“We are recording the animal bones and the mummification techniques used to prepare the animals,” Ikram said. “We are trying to understand how this fits religiously with the cult of Anubis, to whom the catacomb is dedicated,” she added.

Saqqara dog catacomb was first discovered in 1897 when well-known French Egyptologist Jacques De Morgan published his Carte of Memphite necropolis, with his map showing that there are two dog catacombs in the area.

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Creepy Medical Cannibalism In Europe’s Past

Res Obscura on a part of medical history which is not secret, yet never discussed, most likely because it is so gruesome:

What did the jars [in seventeenth and eighteenth century pharmacies] actually contain? Things found in herb teas sold today, like chamomile, fennel, licorice, and cardamom — alongside some utterly bizarre ones, like powdered crab’s eyes, Egyptian mummies, and human skull, or “cranium humanum.” I was struck by the degree to which they take for granted the consumption of human bodies as medicinal drugs.

Substances like human fat or powdered mummy were once so common that hundreds or perhaps even thousands of antique ceramic jars purpose-built to contain them still exist in antique shops, museums and private collections. This is no secret, but it remains more or less the domain of specialists in early modern history.

It was a relatively common sight in early modern France and Germany to witness relatives of sick people collecting blood from recently executed criminals to use in medical preparations:

For those who preferred their blood cooked, a 1679 recipe from a Franciscan apothecary describes how to make it into marmalade…[T]hese medicines may have been incidentally helpful—even though they worked by magical thinking, one more clumsy search for answers to the question of how to treat ailments at a time when even the circulation of blood was not yet understood.

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Mummies Made Out Of McDonald’s Food

Via Kickstarter, a West Texan artist named Ben is raising funds to construct more of his specialty: an army of life-size mummies made from McDonald’s burgers. He draws a murky connection between the obsession with immortality shared by ancient Egyptians and our society, and the fact that McDonald’s meat never decays. Personally I like the McDonald’s mummies because they seem to represent the dark corners of Americana culture sprung to life in monstrous form, ready to wreak vengeance:

mummy

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Aleister Crowley May Have Been Behind The ‘Curse of Tutankhamun’

Aleister-Crowley_2050261cIn post-WWI London, the public’s attention was gripped by a string of mysterious deaths of people linked in one way or another to the unsealing of Tutankhamun’s tomb. Was the “pharaoh’s curse” in fact carried out by Aleister Crowley? Via the Telegraph:

Six mysterious London deaths famously attributed to the ‘Curse of Tutankhamun’ were actually murders by notorious Satanist Aleister Crowley, a historian claims in a new book. Incredible parallels between Crowley and Jack the Ripper have also been discovered during research by historian Mark Beynon.

Throughout the 1920s and 1930s, London was gripped by the mythical curse of Tutankhamun, the Egyptian boy-king, whose tomb was uncovered by British archaeologist Howard Carter. More than 20 people linked to the opening of the pharaoh’s burial chamber in Luxor in 1923 bizarrely died over the following years – six of them in the capital.

Victims included Carter’s personal secretary Captain Richard Bethell, who was found dead in his bed from suspected smothering at an exclusive Mayfair club.

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British Man To Be Turned Into Mummy

Strange_But_True_3-_631317tThis is the way to do it: live a rich and full life, and then be turned into a monster after dying. The Belfast Telegraph writes:

A former taxi driver has become the first person for 3,000 years to be mummified in the same way as the pharaohs. Alan Billis will be turned into a mummy over the space of a few months as his body is preserved using the techniques which the ancient Egyptians used on Tutankhamun.

Mr Billis had been terminally ill with cancer when he volunteered to undergo the procedure which a scientist has been working to recreate for many years. The 61-year-old from Torquay in Devon had the backing of his wife Jan, who said: “I’m the only woman in the country who’s got a mummy for a husband.”

Dr Stephen Buckley, a chemist and research fellow at York University, has spent 19 years trying to uncover the preservation techniques which the Egyptians used during the 18th dynasty.

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Chinese Road Workers Stumble Across 700-Year-Old Mummy

article-1362957-0D7720BC000005DC-510_306x423At any given moment, who knows what might be buried right beneath our feet? Perhaps, there’s a still-fresh-faced 700-year-old woman waiting to be found below  the pavement. Via the Daily Mail:

The corpse of the high-ranking woman believed to be from the Ming Dynasty – the ruling power in China between 1368 and 1644 – was stumbled across by a team who were looking to expand a street.

And the mummy, which was found in the city of Taizhou, in the Jiangsu Province, along with two other wooden tombs, offers a fascinating insight into life as it was back then.

Discovered two meters below the road surface, the woman’s features – from her head to her shoes – have retained their original condition, and have hardly deteriorated. It was as though she had only recently died.

Her body, which measures 1.5 meters high, was found at the construction site immersed in a brown liquid inside the coffin.

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Who Stole King Tut’s Genitals?

king-tutA mystery that may never be solved … The genitals on the mummy of Egyptian king Tutankhamen were declared missing in 1968 but were later found buried in the sand. However, scientists now suggest that the genitals were “swapped” and the real thing is missing. No one has any idea where King Tut’s private parts are hidden, or in whose possession, or why … Perhaps they are haunting someone. From TIME:

After some digging, Marchant was able to confirm that the king’s genitalia was attached to the mummy during its first unwrapping in 1922, meaning the postmortem castration likely occurred in modern times. Interestingly, Tut’s penis was declared missing in 1968 until a CT scan discovered it hidden in the sand that surrounded the mummy. (Penises, Brains and Skulls: The Most Amazing Stolen Body Parts)

This evidence has lead some to believe that Tut’s penis was swapped sometime after his body was embalmed, suggesting a conspiracy existed to save him from embarrassment of the locker room variety, even in the afterlife.

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The Mummies’ Curse: Heart Disease

Amanda Gardner reports for U.S. News & World Report:

Hardening of the arteries may have more of a family history — the human family tree — than was once thought.

Modern-day imaging techniques have unearthed hardening of the arteries — or atherosclerosis, which causes heart attacks and stroke — in mummies up to 3,500 years old.

Experts have long believed that atherosclerosis is a scourge of modern society, caused by meals snatched at fast-food restaurants and eaten in front of high-definition TVs.

“Perhaps atherosclerosis has been around a lot longer than we think. It might have been a malady affecting man long-term,” said Dr. Clyde Yancy, president of the American Heart Association. “It doesn’t necessarily change anything we know or do now, but perhaps some of the accoutrements of civilization are not only unhealthy now, they were also unhealthy then.”

The unusual findings were presented Tuesday at the American Heart Association’s annual meeting in Orlando, Fla., and published simultaneously in the Nov.

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